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August 1950 - Tragedy on the Thames
Launch capsizes at Springbank Park, leaving four dead, three injured

A summer pleasure cruise on the Thames River turns to tragedy when a 17-foot launch carrying nine passengers and its pilot overturns above the old dam at Springbank Park on the afternoon of August 13. Four people drown, including a 22 year old man who was engaged to be married. His fiance survives the tragedy.

Witnesses report the boat was turning around to return to its dock when the accident occured. The incident prompts a provincial inquiry about the legality of private boat operaters offering unregulated tours along the river.

E. V. Buchanan, manager of the London utility which operates Springbank Park, argues that the hire boats do not receive any license or permission from the city to operate on the Thames.

"We don't want to have anything to do with them. We've told them, year after year, to get out. But they don't," says Buchanan, but notes that the Thames River is a Dominion waterway and beyond the jurisdiction of the city.

July 1945 - Housewives Riot Over Potatoes
housewives riotIn the middle of the greatest potato shortage since the famine of 1919, hundreds of housewives stormed stalls at the Covent Garden Market to claim a share of the precious tubers for sale.

Before the vendors were able to cry "sold out!" the crush developed into a near riot as the women pushed one stall into the middle of King Street and began screaming at each other. A policeman was called in to escort the lucky customers back to their cars with their precious cargo.

Wartime restrictions on railway travel severely curtailed the distribution of groceries in Canada. Potatoes, one of the few foods that weren't rationed during the time, were in heavy demand. The defeat of Japan a month later led to a return to heartier meals for Londoners.

June 1930 - Bootleggers Kidnap Brewing Magnate
carling breweriesProhibition proves to be lucrative for Canadian businessmen - a little too lucrative. With the sale of alcohol illegal in the United States, many breweries and distillers make a handsome living selling their wares to smugglers.

But the practice of dealing with the criminal class boomerangs in the late 1920s when wealthy brewery and liquor executives are kidnapped and held for ransom. One of them is Samuel Low, sales manager for Carling Brewery Company in London and two Windsor liquor dock operators. Lowe reportedly pays $25,000 for his release while Maurice and Sydney Nathanson fork over $50,000.

To deter copycat criminals, Lowe and Carlings deny the incident even took place but four years later, the most famous of these incidents, the kidnapping of John Sackville Labatt, is splashed on front pages across Canada.

May 1915 - Two Londoners Perish on Lusitania
On the afternoon of May 7th, the ocean liner Lusitania is torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland. The ship sank within twenty minutes and took with her 1,201 people leaving only 764 survivors.

Two of the dead are Londoners Tertius Selwyn Warner, a former golf instructor, and Florence Herbert, who was going to visit her husband stationed at a military camp in Hythe, England. Many of the dead are American civilians, making the incident the 9/11 of its day.

Condemned as a wanton act of terrorism by U.S. president Woodrow Wilson, the Lusitania disaster prompts America's entry into World War I two years later.

April 1905 - Lebert Lombardo is two months old
How could we have missed the birth date of Lebert Lombardo, one of the cornerstones in Royal Canadians' empire? Well, when you're dealing with someone as low-key as Lebert it's easy to do.

Despite his reputation as a fine trumpet player, Lebert was destined to live in the shadows of more famous brothers Guy (who had the personality) and Carmen (who had the genius). But there's more to this man than you would expect...

Click here for more information

March 1895 - Suicide or Murder?
In February the badly mangled body of Robert Hewson was discovered near the CPR train tracks between Adelaide and William Streets. He was still breathing, although he had been nearly cut in half at the abdomen by the wheels of a passing locomotive. He died shortly afterwards.

Police detectives working on the case immediately conclude Hewson had committed suicide but questions were raised by the deceased's family. The man's watch, chain, pocket book and walking cane were missing. He had also ordered his wedding suit the afternoon before his death and was in good spirits. Two tramps were also seen near the scene of Hewson's death.

Egged on by sensational coverage in the London Free Press, a coroner's jury discards the police department's suicide theory a month later. It rules Hewson was clubbed over the head, robbed and left to die on the train tracks. Unfortunately, the evidence trail has gone cold by then and Hewson's murder goes unsolved.

February 1880 - The Donnelly Murders
The murders of five members of the Donnelly family by vigilantes prompts one of the most sensational and frustrating crimes in the history of Canadian crime. During the early hours of February 4th, James, Johannah, Tom and Bridget Donnelly are beaten to death and their home set ablaze while another son, John, is gunned down outside his brother's home.

Newspaper reporters from London are the first on the scene while the city's police chief, William Thomas Trounce Williams (illustrated) is put in charge of the case. Six local men are quickly arrested but things don't go well for either Williams or the prosecution in the two trials that follow.

Uncooperative witnesses, jury intimidation and Williams' lack of courtroom experience - during the trial he jokingly threatens to crack open the head of the defense attourney and then waves a loaded gun in front of the jury - failed to find any of the accused killers guilty of murder. All six men walk away and the murders go unpunished.

Click here for more information on The Donnelly Trial

January 1855 - London town becomes a city
Canada's most westerly city comes into existence on the stroke of midnight. What was little more than wilderness 30 years earlier is now a modern North American metropolis, complete with a railway, police force and a hospital. Land investors as far away as Komoka are ecstatic over the urban growth that lies ahead.

On a more realistic level, London's new municipal status prompts the construction of a new market building (illustrated here) and a new city hall.

December 1966 - Local poet booted from mall
With signs reading "Have a fried North Vietnamese baby for your Christmas dinner" and "Could you kill?" a clutch of protesters descend on Wellington Square Mall in downtown London for the holiday season. Led by local poet Roy McDonald, the group is greeted with a mixture of smiles and outrage by shoppers.

"They are definitely going to throw us out in a few minutes. They will just tell us to leave," says McDonald. Shortly afterwards, a police officer arrives and tells the assemblage to take their cause to the street.

"I don't care what you do outside. That's your business," grumbles Sgt. Laverne Shipley. "But not in here." McDonald and his colleagues comply, continuing their demonstration in a biting December wind.

McDonald's protest originated from news reports of civilian causalities by increased U.S. bombing in Hanoi. Most of the group consists of high school and university students. "My mother's going to have a bird when she hears about this," said one placard-carrying youth.

November 1950 - Fired cop runs for mayor
In July of 1950 Allan Rush was turfed from the London Police Force for reasons that remain unclear to this day. It was rumoured he was fired because of clashes with chief Earl Knight over Rush's presidency of the London Police Association. Both Knight and Mayor George Wenige were tight-lipped about the dismissal and denied Rush a hearing.

That November, Rush, in a bizarre attempt to clear his name, announced he would run for mayor in the upcoming civic election - despite the fact he had never held public office in his life.

On December 7th, Rush topped the polls with over 12,000 votes, easily defeating incumbent Wenige by a margin of three to one. The following year Mayor Rush asked for - and got - the hearing he had been denied. It ruled that "a failure to hold a hearing into the dismissal was not only contrary to the regulations, but also contrary to natural Justice." Score one for the little guy.

October 1961 - Atomic Bomb Jitters hit London
The Cold War heats up a notch as the Soviet Union resumes atomic bomb testing. With the automotive capitol of North America just two hours away, anxious Londoners wonder how long it would take radio active fallout to wipe out the city if Detroit gets nuked. Several enterprising construction companies come to the rescue by offering homeowners government-regulation bomb shelters.

September 1984 - Tornado rips through Whiteoaks
It was a really lousy way to end the summer. On the Sunday before Labour Day a funnel cloud touched down in the south London subdivision of Whiteoaks.
An estimated 140 police and military personnel set up a command post in a nearby public school while officials sealed off the devastated area to prevent looting. City hall set up a relief fund to help victims cope with the hardship. By the time the rubble was cleared, the tornado left behind an estimated $5 million in property damage and 30 injured people.

Click here for information on more London disasters